Hoping to find the right skipper to reverse a losing trend that's dragged on for years, the Houston Astros have reportedly hired A.J. Hinch as their new manager.
Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reported the news Monday, citing a person with knowledge of the hiring process.
Brian McTaggart of MLB.com then confirmed through a source that Hinch had been hired:
The Astros later confirmed the news via their Twitter account:
Hinch talked about the task ahead:
General manager Jeff Luhnow commented on Hinch via the Astros:
Luhnow went into further detail via MLB.com:
I am extremely excited to bring in A.J. as our new manager. Throughout our process, we searched for a person with previous Major League experience who could effectively lead our young, growing nucleus of talented players. I have no doubt that A.J. is the right person to do that. He brings experience as a Major League player, Major League manager and player development executive. His skill sets and leadership abilities will be enormous assets in our clubhouse and to our entire organization.
The Astros fired Hinch's predecessor, Bo Porter, after a 59-79 record this year and a .367 winning percentage in 300 games. Houston proceeded to finish the 2014 season with interim manager Tom Lawless.
Luhnow did take some of the blame for the organization's lack of positive results after Porter was shown the door, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com:
I recognize that our win-loss record is largely a product of an organizational strategy for which I am responsible. Rather, I made this decision because I believe we need a new direction in our clubhouse. [...] Once you make a decision it is in everyone's best interest to move it along. It's easier to wait until the end of the season in some respects, but it's not fair to Bo and it's not fair to us.
Hinch was just 35 years old when he took over at the helm of the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2009. In one-plus seasons, he was just 89-123, per Baseball-Reference.com.
AZCentral.com's Scott Bordow weighed in on Hinch's reported hiring in that context:
It takes a considerable amount of time to engineer a massive turnaround at the highest level of professional baseball, but the franchise needs to make something happen soon. This marks their sixth straight losing season, and it remains to be seen whether a new voice in the clubhouse will offer substantial help.
At least the Astros have shown some signs of progress, improving their win total by 19 from 2013. They can build around second baseman Jose Altuve, who won the MLB batting title with a .341 average.
Luhnow has to supplement the likes of Altuve and other promising Houston players with more talent. Retaining outfielder Dexter Fowler this offseason, in addition to other marquee moves, would behoove Hinch in his bid to make Houston truly competitive in a tough American League West division. The five-team cluster featured three clubs with 87 wins or more this season.